Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Most of the top sports stories in 2011weren't exactly uplifting.
Topping most year-end lists was Jerry Sandusky and the child abuse scandal atPenn State, with the Lance Armstrong steroid issue also garnering plenty ofattention across the country.
The NFL wasn't immune from bad news either, stunned by Javon Belcher's murder-suicide spree in Kansas City, along with Josh Brent's alcohol-fueled caraccident that killed teammate Jerry Brown.
The Saints' bounty scandal, concussions, Congress' investigation into HGH, andthe replacement officials debacle also took precedence over exciting on-fieldstories like the New York Giants' Super Bowl run and the impressive comebacksof Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning.
Finally, however, we now have a feel-good story to grab onto at a perfecttime: the Holiday Season.
Three months after being diagnosed with leukemia Indianapolis head coach ChuckPagano will more than likely lead his team onto the field when the Colts hostthe Houston Texans in Week 17.
Pagano has been medically cleared by his oncologist, Dr. Larry Cripe, toreturn to his coaching duties with no restrictions.
"Medically, I see no reason he cannot come back when he's ready to try andcome back," Cripe told The Associated Press. "Coach has done a great job withthis, and I trust him."
Pagano is expected to return to work on Christmas Eve to prepare for theteam's regular-season finale with the mighty Texans.
"I love that guy and I would love to see him in person on the sideline," Cripesaid. "To me, the bottom line is that he's done what he needed to do, and he'sdone it with the clear goal that he wants to be coaching as soon as he can."
The first-year head coach was originally diagnosed with the insidious diseasein late September and took an indefinite leave of absence from the Coltsduring the team's Week 4 bye.
Pagano stayed in contract with his players throughout his treatment, however,and occasionally offered up some of the most moving and thoughtfulmotivational speeches of modern times.
Back in early November, Dr. Cripe announced that Pagano's acute promyelocyticleukemia was in remission, but the 52-year-old first-year coach still had toundergo two rounds of chemotherapy. In fact, he will remain on a maintenanceprogram for around two more years until he is declared cured.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has been serving as head coach in theinterim and doing one heck of a job, one he hopes to finish on Sunday inKansas City.
The 9-5 Colts have won eight of 11 under Arians and can clinch a postseasonspot with a win against the Chiefs.
"Hopefully we can get this victory and secure our playoff spot and turn itback over to Chuck," Arians said.
Pagano's players are also anticipating Monday morning like kids running downthe stairs at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning.
"It will be great," quarterback Andrew Luck said. "I'm sure it will beemotional for a lot of people."
"It's going to be a great moment, just having him back on an everyday basiswith the team, knowing that's what he really wants, back with us coaching andback on the sideline," safety Antoine Bethea added. "Obviously we know it'sgoing to be emotional. It's going to be a great time."
Almost a medical miracle turning into a Christmas miracle.
After all, what else would you call a 2-14 team set to become just the fourthin NFL history to go from those kinds of depths to post 10 or more wins in thefollowing season?
"They found a reason to play and when a team finds a reason to play, they'llovercome some things," Arians said. "Chuck's illness took everybody, evenstrangers that we would bring off the street on Wednesday and we'd play onSunday, and they'd fight their tails off.
"When you have guys playing hard for 60 minutes, you're going to win somegames."